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Governor to get MV-22 Osprey deployment explanations

Date Posted: 2011-06-09

Deployment of two dozen MV-22 Osprey vertical take off and landing aircraft to Okinawa is still more than a year away, but Okinawa Prefecture leaders and local citizens are already protesting.

Japan’s Defense Minister is heading to Okinawa to explain the U.S. military’s restructuring of its aircraft lineup at Futenma Marine Corps Air Station on Okinawa, and will brief Governor Hirokazu Nakaima. That visit could come as early as this weekend, officials in Tokyo say, despite the fact Japan’s still waiting for official notifications that the sometimes controversial tilt-rotor aircraft is destined for Futenma.

A Pentagon spokesman said Monday the notification process to Japan that it will replace CH-46 Sea Knight medium-lift cargo helicopters with Osprey aircraft at Futenma has begun. The plan is to start moving the Osprey aircraft to Futenma during the second half of 2012. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa says “I will explain as much as possible that there is no need to worry after the Osprey comes to play a major role among U.S. Forces in Okinawa.”

Okinawa Prefecture spokesman Susumu Matayoshi says the two governments “just say the aircraft is safe but have not made any logical explanations, so we can’t help but conclude they have little consideration for the well-being of local citizens.” Okinawa residents are demanding answers about the Osprey’s noise and safety standards, noting that the aircraft has been involved in several fatal crashes since being introduced.

“We are making queries about how the Japanese government intends to handle this matter,” says Matayoshi, chief of the governor’s executive office. Kitazawa says “I intend to do my utmost to persuade Okinawans they now have nothing to worry about, despite there having been accidents during the development period of the aircraft.”

Yoshiyuki Uehara, Okianwa Prefecture’s Deputy Governor, says “we have long opposed the Osprey development.” Ginowan City plans to stage a sit-down in front of its municipal offices next Monday. “The United States,” says Eisho Nakadakari, who’s leading a group against Japan over noise at Futenma, “has forced a dangerous air base on us, ignoring the human rights of Okinawa citizens.”

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